When: Fri., Nov. 23, 9 p.m. 2012
Misery merchant Mark Eitzel has never sounded as delicate as he does on his latest solo album, Don't Be a Stranger (Merge). He tones down the bombast that's made him a magnetic front man for the American Music Club, and only a few of the new record's tunes try to hit hard—"I Love You but You're Dead," for instance, features searing guitar noise from AMC bandmate Mark "Vudi" Pankler. Overall the tone is decidedly urbane, with jazz players such as keyboardist Larry Goldings and bassist David Piltch crafting sophisticated, contemplative settings into which Eitzel pours his bottomless pathos—he returns in song after song to a desperate, often demeaning yearning for love. Fortunately he occasionally lightens the tone with self-deprecating humor: on "Oh Mercy" the lonely narrator tries to wrangle an invitation to a party, promising, "I swear they'll love the four dirty jokes I know / I swear I'll hit the kitchen like dynamite / I'll even clean up the mess when I smash my glass." Don't Be a Stranger doesn't deliver any surprises as far as its content goes, but I don't know if the world could handle a happy Eitzel anyway. —Peter Margasak Gaberdine and Tim Larson open.